Dear Jeff: Please, for the 101st time, do not use the same spoon for the peanut butter and for the jelly. Toast with butter and Jiffy-flavored jelly makes me want to vomit. In your face.
This letter to her husband begins the September 16 entry on the Scary Mommy blog (scarymommy.com). It goes on to include tartly worded directives to her three children, ages 6, 5, and 3 (“Don’t bicker and fight all day. I just don’t want to deal with it.”); the handyman (“Rearranging my whole day for you is a big enough pain in the ass. Having you never show up is an even bigger one.”); and even Lucky the dog (“Just shut up.”).
Is it any wonder this is one of the most popular mom blogs in the country?
“When I first started, there weren’t that many bloggers who were honest and didn’t try to make everything sound perfect,” says Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy, who relocated from Crofton to Mt. Washington last year. “I think my attitude about being a mom—sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s awful—just sorta resonated with people.”
That’s an understatement. In the three years since Smokler, 33, launched her hilarious, sometimes painfully revealing blog, it has grown from an audience of a couple dozen friends and family to about 90,000 per month, giving her some of the biggest traffic figures among “mom-bloggers,” a notably large subset of the blogosphere.
Of course, there are a few among those thousands who don’t like Smokler’s warts-and-all approach. “I have this one person who responds to every post like, ‘You’re such a snotty moron. Why do you keep writing?’” says Smokler. “Well, why do you keep reading? No one’s forcing you to be here.”
And just to be clear, Scary Mommy isn’t always so, well, scary. Two days after the rant above, she posted a beautiful picture of two of her kids on an apple-picking excursion. “It’s beginning to look a lot like fall . . . and we love it,” she wrote, adding, “P.S. There’s nothing like caramel apples to bribe your children into smiling. Just so you know.”
Smokler, a graphic designer by trade, started the blog when her youngest child was a couple months old, with the intention for it to be an online baby book. “I was drowning in my stay-at-home misery,” she says. “I just needed some sort of outlet.”
Soon, she realized blogging was a natural fit for her, combining her interests in technology and design with her blog-ready conversational writing style. “My English professor in college told me there was no point in ever writing and I should just stick with art,” says Smokler. “I clearly have a messed up way of writing, because I write how I talk.”
And it’s a good thing Smokler enjoys writing the blog because, as she’s quick to point out, it’s no cash cow. “People tell me all the time they want to start a blog so they can make money, and I laugh,” she says. “It’s not like that.”
Smokler does earn a couple hundred dollars a month with the discreet ads on her site, and she says she might be able to earn $700 to $900 a month if she put a lot of time into marketing the site. Instead, she says, it’s lucrative for her in other ways.
The blog has gotten her jobs for other websites like Cafe Mom (cafemom.com), where she writes a weekly column. And she often gets free products to try and write about on the site—she always acknowledges when she gets something for free and writes about it honestly.
Of course, considering the level of candor on the blog, Smokler has had to set some pretty clear rules. “I don’t write about my parents, my in-laws, or friends,” she says. “Because I’ve done all those things and learned the hard way that they don’t like it.”
Like a lot of parents with blogs or even just Facebook pages, she’s also wondered if her kids will one day be angry at her for some of her posts about them. The issue came into sharp relief earlier this year when Smokler posted a video of her son throwing a tantrum in an effort to get a grilled cheese sandwich.
“My brother called me,” she says. “He said, ‘That was really bad of you. Ben is not gonna appreciate that you posted a video of him doing nothing other than whining. I’d be pissed at mom if she did that.’”
“I hadn’t really thought of it that way,” she continues. “How fair is it that I take their little stories and make them public? They’re not choosing to do that; I’m choosing that for them. On the other hand, I would love to have something like this from my mom. At the end of the day, the reason I started the blog was as a baby book for them and it’s still in the back of my head. That’s what I hold on to.”